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Discussion Starter #1
I plan on taking sailing lessons and purchasing my first sailboat next year, but wanted to read and research as much as possible between now and then... I have seen lots of reference concerning starting out in a very small boat and did not want to rob myself of the obvious educational benefits of that, but at the same time I want to make my purchase worth the investment and get as much fun as possible out of it. I''m sure there is no definitive size, but what is the biggest boat you would recommend to a starter? Oh, by the way I will be learning inland. Thanks in advance for any advice you can give!
 

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I took many lessons on 18-22'' sailboats. Then I bought a used catalina 30''. I read everything I can get my hands on on handling, sail trim, ect. Then I "practice" on my boat. There is ALOT to learn. My advice is to take alot of small steps and build knowledge and confidence. Good luck.
 

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The answer to this kind of question somewhat depends on your goals in learning to sail. It is not that hard to get by out on the water with a pretty basic and rudimentary understanding of sail trim and boat handling. I have met people who have done enormous amounts of offshore sailing who really understand very little about sail trim. If that is all that you want to accomplish, that is OK and you can start with a pretty big boat, 30-35 feet or so.

But if your goal is to really understand how to finese a boat and get the most out of the sails and boat, then I suggest that there are two ways to go. If you are physically fit, have reasonably good ballance and don''t mind getting wet, then a dinghy in the 12 to 18 foot range can''t be beat. But if you are and adult with perhaps slowed refexes, I have generally found it easier to teach sailing in a boat in the 25 to 28 foot range. The key here is to buy a boat that is light and responsive enough that you can get clear feedback on the success of your sail trimming efforts. I would further suggest that a fin keel/spade rudder boat with a tiller steering gives a lot more feel and so further provides input into the success of your efforts.

Good luck
Jeff
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Hey thanks so much for the responses. I was hoping there would be a happy medium where I could really learn the fundamentals of sailing but still purchase a more "usable" craft I wouldn''t want to upgrade after a short while. I was thinking somewhere around 22''-27'' which I could trailer but would still be capable of some salt water navigation down the road - if set up properly. Any suggestions on makes/models, which fit the criteria described by Jeff?
 

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I happen to have a Laser 28 for sale. I''ll try to put up some more suggestions over the weekend.

Jeff
 

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In order to get the best value for your investment, it pays to look around in your area and see what boats are already popular that fit your criteria. You should be able to find a used one fairly easily at a reasonable price. Around here, J/24''s would be good candidates, but you''d need access to a hoist.
 

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When I first started sailing I bought a 16ft sloop with a fixed keel and a cabin and then got a book on sailing. Within a year I stepped up to a 28ft Columbia and had a great time with it. I lived in S.E. Alaska and sailed in some pretty rough weather and learned alot. When I moved south I sold the Columbia and bought an 11ft rowing/sailing skiff and found out it was alot more work sailing it than the bigger boat and I also found out that I wasn''t as good a sailor as I thought I was. It takes alot more skill to sail a dinghy than it does a bigger boat with a fixed keel, the dinghy is not as forgiving. My personal opinion, though, is that I''d start with the 28ft boat and not buy the dinghy at all. I guess it comes down to how much money you want to spend on boats and how soon you think you''re going to move up from a dinghy.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks again to all who responded. Along the same lines of new boat considerations - I don''t have any great knowledge of boat launches concering a boat with a keel... so let me ask if someone could give me an idea what the largest draft I could reasonably expect to launch from a trailor. I realize this may all depend upon the marina/park, but in general is doing this feasible?
 

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I would think that 18 inches to 2 feet is a reasonable max before you need special trailors and gear or specialized ramps. In many areas there are two and three ton lifts which are an easier, faster and gentler way to launch. It is also easier on the trailer since it never goes in the water with a hoist. Around here, hoists can often accomodate 5 to 6 feet of draft.

Jeff
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks Jeff. When you refer to a lift are you talking about a hoist, or a special launch ramp/area with a lift built for the trailor?? I''m thinking ahead to when I research launch areas as to what questions to ask. I live in upstate NY and there are plenty of areas to sail, but most are tailored to speed boats and I imagine I would have to dig a little to find specialized launch sites. I''d like to trailor but if it is more trouble than its worth I''ll just find a slip to rent. Hey don''t you get tired of answering questions from people like me who are newbies to all of this?
 

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Hi Jeff,
Been where you are and can offer some advice that you can do what ever you want with. A 20''-23'' used sloop where you can handle the running rigging from the helm would be ideal for solo sailing. Also gives you place to stay over for a night or two. Use the KISS theory [keep it simple stupid] Works for me.
Check the hull, decks spars, rigging, for any major defects tht can''t be repaired at minimal costs.
This may sound foolish, but get a hull with a neutral color. Yellows, reds, etc. lose value quicker than whites and light tints.
Had 23'' O''Day Tempest and loved it. Price should be between 2 and 5,000.00 dollars [trailer may cost more] Outboard should come with it. There out there!
Take Care and Good Luck,
Paul
 

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Been there also... I started out on a 10'' O''Day, sailed it for one season, then moved up to a 22'' MacGregor, which I spent a year refitting into a pocket cruiser & lived aboard for 4 months on the ICW.
Now the Mac is for sale and Im refitting a 32'' Westerly which Ill be living aboard next summer (hurrah!)
I agree with Saco, and additionally would recommend something with a swing keel - that way you can launch from just about anywhere.
 

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Ahoy , Jeff 212 let me first say that very often people look in to many directions with too many options. No sailboat is a good investment unless you buy dirt cheap and spend tons of TV time restoring your dream. Secondly trailer boats by definition are either shallow draft keel or retracting boards for the simple reason that you have to be able to luanch and recover by your self. Lifts the type that Jeff- talks about are few and far between and damn expensive if used regularly. The second consideration is raising the mast and rigging fairly quickly, busy ramps have little patience for mucking about trying to outfit your vessel in the ways. I would suggest you stick to those vessels offered in your area and any seller who isn''t willing to take you out showing you the whole process is waving the red flag in front of you. As far as size you have to decide how much you can handle. Big Red 56
 

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Jeff,
I''ve followed this thread with interest, and since your situation is somewhat like mine, here are my two cents:

1) Think like a hermit crab: you will own a succession of boats, and will trade up as your needs change. Long-term thinking must prevail here. You won''t be the same sailor in five years that you are today. The idea of having one boat for your lifetime is romantic, but impractical. What you need NOW is something to do your basic learning with. Therefore,

2) Buy a trailer-sailer. They are usually in the range of 18-23'', and have several advantages:
(a) they are small enough to force you to really learn the basics of boathandling, and those foundational skills will serve you well when you move up to something larger. I can''t overstate this point.
(b) they offer good economic leverage: stored on the trailer during the off season, and waiting anxiously in a rented summer slip for you to get a hankering to sail. This way, you can be out on the water 45 minutes after you see the breeze on Saturday morning, because your boat is ALREADY in the water, the mast is ALREADY stepped up, and all you have to do is grab your sunscreen and car keys. And in the off-season, storage on the trailer is cheap. A big back yard is ideal; but even renting a space in an RV yard is less costly than renting a slip for the 8-9 months when you''re not likely to sail. I''m on the west coast, and I can''t imagine your sailing season is longer than mine is here in southern CA. Renting a summer slip/storing off-season is the best way to go, and the trailerable boat with a swing-keel is the way to do it.

2) Starting off with a trailer-sailer avoids this talk about hoisting, locations, costs, and inconvenience.

3) Trailerable boats offer the best of both worlds for a first boat. They are small (responsive) enough to put you on a good place on the learning curve, so that you don''t imagine you know how to sail standing behind the wheel of a 34-footer. The smaller boat will humble you and teach you. Jeff is right: there are plenty of guys out there in larger boats who don''t know much about sailing. And the smaller boat is still plenty big enough for week-end trips for two, or even multiple-day trips when you get adventurous (I cruised the coast of CA for two weeks in my Catalina 22 a couple of summers ago).

4) These trailerable boats have TILLERS. You learn faster by handling a tiller than you do holding onto a wheel. You get feedback from the boat through a tiller that you just don''t get (or aren''t experienced enough to detect) from holding onto a wheel. I''d never put a beginning sailer behind a wheel, if there were a boat with a tiller available. It''s a better teacher. You will wind up ahead of the game in boathandling skills by wearing the varnish off a tiller.

You will know automatically when it is time for something bigger. I''ve spent four seasons with my swing-keel trailerable, and now I know I have the skills AND the desire for something in the 30'' range. But I wouldn''t trade my "training seasons" with my current boat for anything: that''s the boat that made me a sailor.

Fair Winds,
Jeff C
 

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Hello All.

I am in pretty much the same situation as Jef212 the original poster of this topic with a slight modification. I have an eleven year old that is also interested in sailing. My question to you all is would starting in a 16''-18'' dinghy be excessive for my son to learn on?

Thanks in advance.

Eric
 

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It would only be excessive if you expected your 11 year old to take the boat out by himself. I started sailing when I was 11 (40 years ago now). I sailed at camp in a 13 foot aluminum dinghy. I learned much more about how to sail a few years later with my family on our first boat which was 25 footer. I really developed my skills puttering aroundon my first boat which was a 10 foot sloop that I bought somewhere about the time I was 13 or so. I think that a 16 to 18 footer should make a fine daysailor for your family and is a managable size of a pre-teen as long as there is the weight and judgement of an adult on board. Don''t be surprised if you 11 year old is not asking to borrow the boat and go sailing with some friends by the time he is 14 or so. By the time I was 15, I was taking the family 32 footer (our second boat)out sailing with a just couple friends my age. I can''t say that Dad was thrilled but he was certainly a good sport about it. I actually lived aboard by myself the summer I turned 16 and rowed to work at a job I landed in a boatyard. It was a bit of a Huck Finn lifestyle, but it taught me a lot of responsibility.

I think that having sailing to share with my father and mother built a very strong relationship and a comfort in talking openly. This relationship lasted through my teen age years and is still strong today when I am now a 51 year old and Dad is still sailing well up into his mid 70''s.

While this is only my opinion, I think it is a wonderful thing you are doing, introducing your child to sailing as you yourself are building skills.

Regards
Jeff
 

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Ahoy, Eric, the only real consideration is can your son physically handle what you put him in. Is he an expert swimmer or a novice prone to panic? Dinghys can be made unflippable with the proper modifications such as oversized centerboard or small rudder and rigging .Such changes can be slowly readjusted as his skill grows. I would reccomend any dinghy up to 12'' as a beginner and advance from there. I own and teach in the following order, Novice : 7'' sailing/ rowing dinghy ,11'' classic Moth,Experienced :11'' Scorpion (similar to a sunfish but with a deeper well and slightly slower), Expert :16'' planing dinghy (my own design), 16'' Glen Marine designed catamaran Competitor: Highlander or similar class racing scow. The novice boats can''t be flipped very easy, the Experienced can and will flip but teachs how to right a boat, Expert can be flipped however righting can be difficult.Competitor well you damn well better be able to swim and afford the recovery efforts. Each level increases in speed and performance. All this said the last thing is to have as much fun along the way as possible. Big Red 56
 

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Thanks BIG RED 56. Sage advice to be sure. Have to say I am thrilled that my son at 10 has already been lured by the sea as opposed to any vice of contemporary living. Who knows, with any luck, perhaps young people will be reading Treasure Island and other sea stories again.

Fair winds and a following sea to you.
 

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Hi.
Yes, it would be excessive.
Start as small as your son''s bodyweight allows. This will help awoiding any future fear, and creates a lot of confidence.
I started with an Optimist at five and now, 28 years later I''m confident sailing anything that floats. Always change size of boat and type of rigging, centerboard to keel etc as carfully as possible.
 

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Trusted names,Sparkman and Stephens designed the Blue Jay as a trainer. At <14'' it might work great for an 11 yr old, yet dad can be somewhat comfortable also.
 
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